Sunday, July 7, 2013

The Rise of Ultra Magnus

I can remember when Ultra Magnus was a sought after figure due to the G1 movie, back when I was a kid. His toy was a white-colored version of Optimus Prime that fit inside a much larger suit of armor, which was formed from his semi trailer. But somehow he was left with just one figure to his name for years after that initial outing. Then Robots In Disguise was released in the US, which was a re-dub of a Japanese Transformers cartoon. Ultra Magnus was back again, and as well armored as before. Since then he's been re-appearing in a number of the Transformers lines, either as recolors of the Prime toy, or completely new molds all to himself.

Today I ran across the Transformers Prime: Beast Hunters Voyager-sized version of Magnus, which is partly a Prime re-color, but with a number of new parts added in. He has a new head, shoulder-mounted missile launchers, and the Forge of Solus hammer (albeit in silver, not the bronze/gold of the cartoon or the box the toy came in). Most of the body is from an earlier mold of Prime, but there are enough new bits to make him worth picking up, at least for me. There have been enough versions of Ultra Magnus to date that he's almost reached the "group" status on my collection shelves. That's the point where I have enough of one figure from different lines to put them all in one spot dedicated to just that character, without it looking odd.

Here he is in robot mode. It's a very nice look, especially with the wings/blades in the back and the shoulder cannons armed. In fact, I've started calling him Bat-Magnus due to the shape of the wings and the back panels when looking at him head-on.

The transformation from robot to vehicle isn't hugely difficult, but it isn't documented very well in the instruction manual. There's one picture showing how to fold his arms and shoulders down under the top of his chest plate to form the hood and top of the cab... it really should have been two or three shots of the various twists of the elbows, shoulders, and shoulder pads to get it to look like the one diagram they provided. The vehicle mode looks pretty good by itself, but suffers from the massive kibble sticking out the back with his shoulder weapons, jetpack/wings, and hammer all jammed together into a lump on the back. But the front of the cab snaps together quite well, without large gaps or obvious seams when you look at it from the front. It just isn't the mode I'd keep him in for very long.

So robot mode is definitely my favorite, but I have to say that the hip joints on my figure are far too loose. He can still stand by himself, but if he was on a surface any slicker than my computer table he'd be in danger of forever doing the splits. It's unfortunate from a play perspective, but not something I'm worried about for display purposes right now.

In the end, I'm happy with this guy, and glad he appeared on the shelves at my local Target this weekend! He's a great representation of the character from the Prime cartoon that's finishing up this season, and should look great with the other Mangus (Magnuses? Magnusi? Magni?) figures in my collection when they're all back in place. For now, just a quick shot of him with the few figures I still have out of storage:

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Cybertronian Kre-Onation

The Kreon Transformer mini-figures are just awesome. It's been so much fun opening the latest single-figure packs and putting the little guys together to arrange on the desk! The larger Lego-like kits are pretty cool too, but it's definitely the mini-figures I've been attracted to. I can't wait to have space to put them all together again on the grey base plates I have in storage... I think I'm going to need one or two more plates, the way the collection has been growing!

Lugnut is definitely a favorite from this "series 2" release of micro-changers. I liked the character from the Animated series, and absolutely loved both of the toy figures Hasbro came out with. His mini-me looks just as sweet!

Another cool design is Hardshell, who is actually a micro version of the G1 Bombshell character. I just like how the face and the pincers at the back work together. One thing I did find a bit annoying was that the hands on this guy have the slight angle on the wrists, which means that the gun he came with doesn't sit straight against the arm unless you turn the hand upside-down.

Bulkhead is another favorite character from the Animated series. I actually preferred the character there to the current one in the Prime series, but he isn't bad there. The miniaturized version is a pretty close match, just missing the larger chest to make him a perfect match. 

Perceptor was a toy I didn't get in my main Transformer collection until his re-release a little while back. I liked the figure, despite the lack of articulation back then, because he was a scientist with a shoulder cannon... that's just cool. His Kreon namesake is really well executed, getting that shoulder cannon into such a small package.

There's also Powerglide... somehow he always felt like the knock-off character in the cartoon series. The Decepticons had the fast jets, and he was a slightly under-powered glider instead. But I still like how the Kreon version came out, with the swept-back wings just like the G1 toy.

The others in the series (Blight, Arcee, Groove, Acidwing, Hoist, Vehicon, and Scourge) are awesome in their own small ways, I just don't want to fill up the blog with a long line of photos that you can find with a Google search these days. All-in-all, I really, really like these guys, and I'm keeping my fingers crossed that the line has a long and happy future ahead of it! I'll keep spending my money on 'em, they just have to keep making 'em!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Transformer Collecting to the Maximus

It's been over 25 years since Fortress Maximus was originally released by Hasbro in the US. He was a 2-foot tall monster of a figure, towering over anything else that had been released to that point (or since). I remember getting his opposite number, Scorpinok, for Christmas that year, which was an amazing toy as well. But the closest I was ever able to get to Fort Max was in photos in magazines, and later online. I never managed to see one of these in person. Until last week!

Getting Fortress Maximus was usually a very expensive ordeal, especially if you wanted a complete figure with all the original parts. The standard price on eBay for years, for an opened but complete figure was between $800-$900. So I had given up on ever having him in my own collection, particularly since I don't play the lottery. But amazingly Takara-TOMY, the Japanese side of the Transformer brand, decided to re-release the figure again, at a much more affordable price! So, after a long wait for it to be produced, then shipped overseas, then delivered to me, I now present the towering Headmaster - Fortress Maximus:

He really is as big as the pictures make him out to be, and never would have fit on my shelves in my collection room in the old house! It's almost comical how large the figure is, especially when transforming him. The legs fold together to make part of the back of the "city" mode of the figure, and I found myself wedging one section under my arm and another under my chin just to get the leverage I needed to ratchet the leg up at the hip joint. Changing modes on this guy was a whole new experience! 

I was slightly anxious to get this guy in my hands. I mean, the technology that went into it is over 25 years old, so it isn't exactly the most pose-able figure ever. But once he was out of the box and sitting on my desk, I didn't care how long ago he was designed. He's still an awesome feat of plastic engineering! 

So now I have to make plans for the collection room in the new house to actually fit this guy in somewhere... plus, he's been the largest Transformer toy for 25 years, BUT there's a new version of Metroplex coming out in a few months that's just a tiny big taller still! So I guess I'll need to plan two spots for the giants to loom over everyone else. 

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Generations Springer and Blitzwing quick review

So it's been WAY too long since my last post here. I'll see if I can make this happen more frequently going forward.

Since my last post I've watched my collection count run back up over the 1,000 mark again. Part of that is due to the Kre-O line of figures, which are just awesome! I've been doing everything I can go make sure I get all of the micro-figure releases, and I have most of the larger kits prior to the Beast Hunters line. The micro-changer combiner figures are just awesome! I can't wait to have display space again to put my diorama back together.

So one of the major changes in my life recently has been a move to a new(ish) town. We sold our house just a month back now, and we've been in the planning stages to build another home in our new location. That meant that my collection had to come down and get stored for a year again. There are 14 grey Rubbermaid totes in various locations with the majority of my figures again. Sadly, there's even a Generations Voyager Grimlock and Blaster still in their boxes in the back of a storage unit that I won't be able to get to until the house is built... but the collection continues anyway!

So this post is primarily focused on the latest Voyager figures from the Generations line, the resurrected triple-changers Springer and Blitzwing. Pardon the quality of the camera shots, I'm using my cellphone camera at this point.

I was really excited to see triple-changers come back into production, and was really happy to see the three-faced featured from Animated Blitzwing show up in this figure! After finding the toys locally, I'm still happy to have them in my collection, but disappointed in some of the execution of the two toys.

My first slight disappointment came when changing Springer from robot mode into his car mode. The final vehicle looks ok, but the problem is with the tolerances needed on the parts. For this vehicle to really look as good as it should, there are a number of small pegs that supposedly snap together along the side panels and the front windshield/windows. Unfortunately, due to the slight variances you get in mass producing a toy, the pegs and slots just don't line up well enough to stay together. They're pretty close, and one side of the vehicle looks great, but the other side just keeps popping apart near the back fender. There were similar pieces in the helicopter mode, particularly the flap just behind the rotor blades that has two ridges that should snap into the back of the legs. It just doesn't work, no matter how I shift the pieces around. So, ultimately, the vehicle modes look nice if you don't touch them, or look too close at the places parts join together. He's much better in robot mode!

Blitzwing didn't have quite the same tolerance issues, but instead has extremely loose hip joints and the ball joints in his feet. He's able to stand on his own right now, but just barely. If I were to transform him a dozen or so times, I have a feeling that would degrade even further. I can fix the feet with a bit of super glue, but the hip joints are pegs that would take much more effort to try to update. So, he's been changed to tank and jet modes once, and that's probably all he'll ever get.

Of the two figures, Springer does the best job of pulling off two separate vehicle modes that look good. His armored car looks like a Cybertronian version of the Tumbler from the Batman movies. His copter mode is a bit chunky, but still pretty solid.

Blitzwing, unfortunately, needs some imagination to overlook the gaps left in his tank mode, and the way the turret swivels from the wrong point entirely. The jet mode is better, but still has some big holes left when you look at it from various angles. And his head... it's on a spring to allow it to push down and be covered by the nose cone. But when it's popped out in robot mode, it's loose enough to make him look like a bobble-head! My second gripe was about his face-change feature. The instructions show a red arrow to push the face upward to switch to the next one. Wrong! Trying to push up just jams the face behind it into the back of the helmet, doing nothing. Pushing it down is the only way to get it moving correctly, which caused me quite a bit of frustration. I ended up taking the screw out of the side of his helmet and taking the whole thing apart to figure it out... it was either that or I was about 30 seconds away from snapping his neck trying to get the face to turn the wrong way.

So, they're solid buys for people that like the triple-changer aspect of toys, and don't really mind vehicle modes that aren't all that convincing in places. Just be aware that there may be joint issues with Blitzwing, and be prepared to have panels that don't really lock together as well as they should. If you're fans of the characters, definitely a good buy! If you want solid playability in your figures, these really aren't the best.